August 22, 2004: Headlines: COS - Turkmenistan: William and Mary: PCV Carrie Dolive ('03) writes from Turkmenistan

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Turkmenistan: Peace Corps Turkmenistan : The Peace Corps in Turkmenistan: August 22, 2004: Headlines: COS - Turkmenistan: William and Mary: PCV Carrie Dolive ('03) writes from Turkmenistan

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PCV Carrie Dolive ('03) writes from Turkmenistan

PCV Carrie Dolive ('03) writes from Turkmenistan

PCV Carrie Dolive ('03) writes from Turkmenistan

Carrie Dolive ('03) writes from Turkmenistan:

August 22, 2004

Salam, zdravstvuyte, and hello! It has been quite a while since I last emailed. This is because I have been thankfully relatively busy. (By the way, if you happened to email me anytime in the last several months, chances are I didn't get your message. My current email address is, though I prefer to be reached by regular mail.).

I have started work on a secondary project (my primary being my assignment at the AIDS Center). My fellow Balkan Welayat health Volunteer and Virginian, Elynn, and I had similar ideas of how to improve the Peace Corps health manuals that we already have and so we decided to make a Health Activity and Lesson Plan Book. Originally our book was to help volunteers, but now we are targeting it towards local health educators as well as PCVs. We have noticed that while doctors and nurses are knowledgable about health issues - as they should be - they are often uncomfortable with teaching and reluctant to do it. And when they do teach, they rely on stale lectures that do not engage their audiences. Our goal is to provide them with a resource that shows how to teach and provides the materials needed for more interactive lessons.

So one weekend in May, Elynn and I sat down and wrote a grant. We applied for money from Peace Corps through the SPA program (Small Project Assistance), which is funded through USAID (United States Agency for International Development). Turkmenistan has some strict, confusing, and constantly changing laws on who can receive grants; one of the benefits of the SPA grant, from our perspective, is that the money can be alloted directly to volunteers. We have been approved to receive funding to print up 500 copies of our book.

Right now we are compiling our materials and writing up lesson plans. The lesson plans, on topics such as general hygiene, nutrition, reproductive health, etc. will be outlines with suggestions for activities to include and possible variations. A good portion will be these activities - educational games and songs. We will include full directions for the games and game pieces needed, such as cards for Bingo or Memory. We will include the music with the songs. We will also have a section with diagrams, pamphlets and posters, and a "how to" section (how to make a toothbrush, toothpaste, oral rehydration drink, or dice). And everything will be in Turkmen and English, and occasionally Russian. Basically the idea is to make it as easy as possible to teach health.

We hope to have the book written, translated, edited and ready to print by mid-September. In October through the end of the year, we will hold seminars to teach doctors and educators how to use the book. Next year we will visit our seminar participants to assess their usage. We are printing enough copies so that volunteers all over the county can have the book. We hope to receive feedback from them as well. Wish us luck in this project!

This summer has gone by fast in great part due to the English language camps we have held throughout the region. The first camp was Camp Ketchup in Serder (a pun on Turkmenistan's Serder [literally "leader"] brand ketchup - [Actually the best ketchup I've ever tasted. The "ajy" or spicy flavor is great!]). This was the first language camp ever held in the city. Next we had BEST - Balkan English Seminar for Teachers - at Awaza, a city on the Caspian Sea. Then we had 3 weeks of Camp Chaos (official name: Balkanabat Teen Club) here in Balkanabat. This camp actually continued for a 4th week - it was run by some returned exchange students to the US. We PCVs did not participate in the final week as we headed up to Turkmenbashy and Awaza for the last camp of the season - Aqua Camp. I taught or ran a variety of sessions at camps: songs; emotional health; debate; breast cancer awareness; free swim; a trash pick-up; how to make origami cranes; as well as serving as director for one week! of Camp Chaos. Each of these camps offered different activities and structures (you can guess about the nature of Camp Chaos), but they all tried to provide kids and teachers with a positive, and at times, educational and certainly fun environment at a time of the year when many simply vegetate in front of the television. Whether or not everyone who attended camps improved their English, I can't say, but in this last aformentioned goal I do think we were successful. The camps were also valuable for us volunteers. many of us haven't had a whole lot to do over the past year. The summer offered us a chance to interact with more people and teach (and of course, spend time at the beach) - in general, to feel useful, which is a very validating emotion.

Right now at the end of the summer, teachers are gearing up for the school year which starts in September. And Peace Corps Turkmenistan is preparing for the arrival of the newest crop of trainees, the T-13s. We are all very excited at the prospect of meeting new Americans. Balkanabat is rumored to be receiving four new volunteers, two TEFL Volunteers and two health Volunteers.

With the impending arrival of new volunteers, I've come to the realization that I have been here for almost a year. It is almost hard to believe. As of my typing this letter, I have been a Volunteer for over 9 months and lived in Turkmenistan for over four months. In the past year, I have learned some of a new language, and gotten some practice in one I had already studied; I have learned about critical health issues common in 3rd world countries and seen how such issues are approached in Central Asia; I have learned and am still learning how to work with people from an entirely different culture; I have realized that even when people speak to each other in the same language, they don't necessarily understand each other; I have learned something about teaching - a skill I didn't quite realize that I was doing to develop; I have met some incredibly welcoming and hospitable people; I have had the time to relax, read books, bone up on my crossword puzzle working skills, and think! about what I might want to do after my Peace Corps service; I have attended over 15 wedding parties and written over 130 letters; I have bathed less and sweated more than I have ever had in my life; I have met a lot of great friends who share my views on international development yet have entirely different approaches; and I have been very frustrated and overwhelmed and exhausted and excited and bored and cynical and hopeful and optimistic. All in all, it has been an unforgetable year; and I look forward to what the next year will bring.

Good luck to you all!

April 2, 2004


How have you all been since I last wrote? Life is beginning to feel more normal to me here though, of course, things do continue to surprise me.

Work at the AIDS Center is fairly (frustratingly) inactive, but I know it has potential and so I keep hoping. My counterpart mentioned the idea of doing a calendar a while ago, and so I am continuing to ask her occasionally if she still wants to do this. When she asked me to write a plan for the month of April, I instead wrote in my best Russian that I was interested in working on this project and so needed to write a grant, and I listed certain things that we needed to talk about (the sorts of things grant agencies will want to know). I haven’t gotten all the information I need yet, but it is a start.

The AIDS Center recently lost two workers to “sokresheniya,” as did many other medical and educational institutions. “Sokresheniya” is a Russian word, used in Turkmen as well, that refers to the laying off of employees. It seems to be used as a reason in itself. One of the secretaries at the AIDS Center asked me if I knew where Ogulgerek and Amangul were. I thought, of course don’t know; they lost their jobs, so I suppose they’re at home. But then I realized that the correct answer was simply “sokresheniya.” (From my point of view, these were the two employees that did the least around the place – except for me – but I don’t know whether this was before or after they knew they were going to be left go.) I attempted to ask the reasons for the lay offs, but my coworkers didn’t know, only that the order came from much higher up on the chain of command. I have heard that a number of positions lost were janitorial, and that if there is work to be done, it will be done by soliders which are considerably cheaper than other employees. Not that anyone in the health or education sectors has gotten paid recently anyway (I believe they are four months behind in receiving their salaries.).

You may be wondering with mass unemployment and a lack of monthly wages, how do people make a living. Well, they manage to get by by doing things outside their jobs. English teachers teach private lessons after school is over. Women make crafts or food to sell at the bazaar. Men work as taxi drivers (Gas is cheap enough here that you can do that.). And many stores and sellers work on credit. I was even offered credit once, though I told the woman that it wasn’t necessary. The couple of times my coworkers have been paid, I have been amazed at the flurry of money changing hands that occurs – they are all paying off their debts to each other.

My work seems more satisfying outside of the AIDS Center. At Katie’s teachers’ club, I have held discussions on gender roles (which one teacher told me she then adapted and used in her English classes!) and did a successful AIDS presentation. At girls’ club, we have talked about pop stars, why we listen to different kinds of music and puberty. In the remaining weeks of the school year, we hope to cover AIDS, some geography, and what life is like for a similarly aged American girl. We continue to sing our song “Make New Friends” at nearly every meeting. We are also planning to teach them, “With a Little Help from My Friends” by the Beatles. (In case any one wonders, the line: “Oh, I get high with a little help from my friends” means that friends make us happy.)

This past month we simultaneously celebrated Nowrus Bayrum (Muslum new year), which was only marked by a day off of work, and Women’s Day March 20-22. Women’s Day used to be celebrated on March 8th (and International Women’s Day still is), but the President changed the date to later in the month. People still continue to wish each other a happy 8th of March though. In the past, the President gave every girl or woman working or studying a month’s salary on this date. The past couple of years nothing was given, though this year they received 200,000 manat, which seemed to leave the women I know quite satisfied, despite the fact that they haven’t received their salaries in four months. Many people were shocked to learn that such an institution as the United States Peace Corps does not give gifts like this to its female employees. For Women’s Day, my host father gave my host mother a set of crystal bowls, which are now proudly displayed in the living room. A girl from my girls’ club gave me a small stuffed purple cow that rattles, which is now proudly displayed on a shelf in my room.

Perhaps you are thinking: Wow, Carrie sends such interesting emails about her life in T-stan. I wish there were some way I could communicate with her, but I know she doesn’t have much Internet access. There is a way; I have not one, but two conventional addresses. In Balkanabat, I can receive mail at this address (Yes, it is written differently than what most of you are used to.)

Balkan Velayat
Central Post Office
Abonent #38
Peace Corps Volunteer
Caroline Dolive

And I also continue to receive mail at the Peace Corps office in Ashgabat.

PCV Caroline Dolive
U.S.Peace Corps/Turkmenistan
P.O. Box 258, Krugozor
Central Post Office
Ashgabat, 744000

I don’t promise prompt replies, but I do respond, and I always appreciate hearing from you.

Stay in touch,

When this story was posted in January 2005, this was on the front page of PCOL:

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Persuading Retiring Baby Boomers to Volunteer 6 Jan
Inventor of "Drown Proofing" retires 6 Jan
NPCA Membership approves Board Changes 5 Jan
Timothy Shriver announces "Rebuild Hope Fund" 5 Jan
More Water Bottles, Fewer Bullets 4 Jan
Poland RPCV Rebecca Parker runs Solterra Books 2 Jan
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Former Director Carol Bellamy, now head of Unicef, says that the appalling conditions endured today by half the world's children speak to a broken promise. Too many governments are doing worse than neglecting children -- they are making deliberate, informed choices that hurt children. Read her op-ed and Unicef's report on the State of the World's Children 2005.
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Story Source: William and Mary

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Turkmenistan



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